Most of us in business would agree that we’ve come across some inspiring people and some “not so” inspiring people. Whether we choose to look at business in terms of morality or not is a personal choice. However, there is no denying that there is a right way to do business and a wrong way.
From the political arena to the publishing world we have, in recent times, observed the wrong way to behave professionally. Similarly, experiences with some business owners can prove to be valuable lessons in what NOT to do. Ensuring that your business is run in the right way will start with determining your values. And every entrepreneur requires the strength of character to make the right choices; irrespective of the pressure to make a profit.
Here are my guidelines; some very serious and some on the softer side.
1. Do not profit via illegal means:
It goes without saying that if you commit a criminal offence in order to advance your business, then you are skating on thin ice. Sooner or later, someone is going to notice and the repercussions will have an impact not simply on yourself or your business but also on the customers who rely on you as well.
2. Do have integrity at all times:
You end up harming your business if you cannot keep your word. Customers pay attention to the little details. When you are late for meetings or you promise to respond to an enquiry within a time frame and you consistently disappoint; people are going to stop believing in you and take their custom elsewhere. At the very least, mitigate any disappointment by communicating so that expectations are managed properly.
3. Do not steal other people’s work:
A common practice, particularly amongst new start-ups and smaller businesses is plagiarism. Copying and pasting content from a website without permission; claiming another person’s work as yours; listing clients you did not work with as yours; is thoroughly unprofessional and unethical.
4. Do make your intentions clear:
The number one time waster when marketing a product, or service, is following up people who tell you they are interested but really aren’t. Rather than say “come and see me another time”, when you really aren’t interested you could say “I think your product is great but I’m afraid we are not in a position to take it on”. It’s so simple to do and saves a lot of time on both sides.
5. Do acknowledge your mistakes and don’t try to cover it up:
There is nothing worse that dealing with someone that tries to make excuses for something that is obviously wrong. Everyone makes mistakes now and again; there is nothing wrong with owning up to a mistake and then finding ways to make up for it. No one likes to be treated like a fool and you should not take your customers for granted. Your customers will appreciate you for it.
6. Do respond to emails or voicemail:
It’s one thing to ignore unsolicited mail and another thing entirely not to respond to someone you already have a working relationship with. Even in cases where you do not have a response for the individual you can still give feedback. There is nothing worse than chasing up an invoice or trying to place an order without any response. It’s the quickest way to get people to lose interest in you.
7. Do stop untargeted marketing:
Marketing your product or service is a time consuming effort. All that effort is wasted when you do not target a specific segment of the market with your campaign. There is no point sending details of your spa product to a fish monger simply because you got a list of local businesses in an area; unless of course he also has a fish spa on the side. Untargeted marketing is annoying to the receivers, you lose credibility and it’s costly to you.
8. Do not over promise:
You are at a pitch and trying to win over the customer. You sense that they are closer to voting in your favour; they just need a little bit of convincing and the job will be yours. So you decide to offer them services you don’t even provide or give away products for free in addition. It truly is better to under promise and the over deliver. To find yourself in a position where you have to go back to a customer to say you can’t deliver is simply unforgivable.
9. Do not destroy the environment or community:
We no longer live in a world where businesses can decide not to care about the impact of their activities on the environment and surrounding community. Whilst no one can tell you how far you take your commitment to this, you should show that you are taking reasonable steps to ensure that your business is contributing its fair share. There are a range of activities from recycling to lowering your carbon emissions that you can commit to.
10. Do treat others as you would like to be treated:
Whilst we all have to do business with people who aren’t necessarily nice; we would all admit that people like working with pleasant people. You rarely find anyone who extends themselves or gives a referral for someone they don’t like. More often than not, you find that people go out of their way to support your work when they like you.